My friendly chicken farmer gave me a call last week, wondering if I’d like to order roasting chickens for the freezer this year.
“Yes”, I told him, “I’ll take some”, whereupon I realized that I might want to use the two remaining chickens from the last bunch before the new ones arrive.
The roasting chickens we usually get are 5-6 pounds each. One of these chickens is great to serve for a robust dinner of roast chicken, dressing, gravy, mashed potato, turnip and dessert if we have dinner guests.
For two people with no visitors, a chicken this size is enough for roast chicken today, leftover chicken dinner tomorrow, sliced chicken sandwiches on day 3, a bit for the freezer and homemade soup or chicken stew made with the scraps. That’s a lot of chicken for two people, and can lead to “chicken fatigue”, the feeling that all you ever is eat is chicken.
We prefer to have a maximum of two chicken meals and freeze lots of leftovers for future pot pies, curries, stirfries or casseroles.
Last Friday, when we had company for lunch, I made a filling for crèpes with chopped roast chicken and lightly steamed chopped broccoli florets in a lemony curry sauce. For the sauce, I started by sweating chopped onion in melted butter and made a roux by cooking some flour into the butter/onion mix.
I then gradually whisked in a combination of rich chicken drippings from the roast pan, along with coconut milk and evaporated milk, and cooked over medium-how heat until it was smooth and thick. Finally, I seasoned the sauce with fresh lemon juice and curry powder, let it cool slightly, and stirred in the chicken and broccoli, before filling the crèpes and lining them up in a 23x33 cm (9 by 13 inch) pan. Covered with foil, the prepared crèpes stayed warm in a 135 C (275 F) oven for about 30 minutes, until serving time.
One of the nice things about cooking a whole chicken is that you have the carcass to use for making broth. Making chicken broth is wonderful because you control what goes into it (less salt than commercial broth, if that’s your inclination), and you can bank it in the freezer for use in soups, casseroles, stews, sauces and gravies. Cook it for half a day on the stovetop or more quickly using a pressure cooker. Here is a recipe for pressure cooked stock with Asian flavours, to use as a base for a wonton soup or Vietnamese-style noodle soup.
To make this in a programmable multicooker style of pressure cooker, I would use the sauté option to brown the bones and trimmings, and to bring the liquid to a boil and skim the foam.
At that point, I’d lock the lid, set the cooker to Manual for 30 minutes, and then wait for a natural release before opening the cooker.
Asian Soup Stock
Adapted from Chavich, Cinda: “225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes”. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2013.
1.5 kg (3 lbs) chicken and/or pork bones and trimmings
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunk fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic
5 mL (1 tsp) salt
5 whole black peppercorns
4 Szechuan peppercorns, or 1 whole star anise (optional)
1 small dried chile pepper (optional)
2.5-3 L (10 to 12 cups) cold water to cover
Place meaty bones and trimmings in the pressure cooker and brown over medium heat.
Add onion, carrot, ginger, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and Szechuan peppercorns and chile pepper, if using. Add cold water, enough to cover the ingredients by 5-7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches). Make sure the cooker is no more than two-thirds to three-quarters full.
Bring to a boil over high heat and skim any foam that rises to the surface.
Lock the lid in place and bring the pressure cooker up to full pressure, then reduce heat to medium-low, just to maintain even pressure. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from heat and let the pressure drop naturally. Remove the lid. Strain broth, discarding solids, and chill. Lift off any excess solidified fat.
Store soup stock in containers in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.